Many freshmen were surprised to discover that the recycling bins in the freshman dorms had disappeared over Christmas break. Jerry Haba, the co-director of UD Facilities, said that the freshman dorm recycling program was terminated due to an abrupt decrease in international demand for recycled paper and a lack of student interest.
The Chinese government banned 24 types of “foreign waste” on Jan. 1 of this year, creating a vacuum for nearly a sixth of American recyclables. This left many American recycling companies, including UD’s recycling partner Balcones Resources, scrambling to find alternate destinations for recyclables.
It also made it difficult for UD Facilities to justify the cost and effort it took to have recycling in the freshman dorms, especially since there was so little involvement with the program in the first place.
“I was losing money on the situation because no one was recycling anything, so it wasn’t worth it to hire a truck to transport recycling more often, or even for custodial services to take care of the recycling in the dorms,” Haba said.
UD still has a recycling program that students can use, Haba said, although it now focuses on waste from the bookstore and the kitchen to be more economical.
“This way not everything is going to a landfill, and we’re still doing something ‘green,’” Haba said. “Recycling still goes in the compactor behind the Haggar dock, and I have recycling bins that students can reinstall in the dorms if they’re interested.”
Even parishioners from the Church of the Incarnation use the existing program by putting their own recyclables in the compactor.
UD can actually make a small profit on recycling, but only if students choose to conscientiously recycle more material than in past years. Haba advises students to recycle newspaper, flyers, papers, paperback books and especially cardboard, which makes the most money for the school. Students should not recycle glass, which shatters in the compactor, and materials that contain food waste, like pizza boxes, which contaminate the rest of the recycling “batch.”
Despite the temporary setback, Greg Vanderheiden, a new leader of the UD Sustainability Team, is cautiously optimistic about the future of the recycling program.
After reinstalling bins in the freshman dorms, members of the Sustainability Team can transport recyclables to the Haggar dock and put up signs reminding people what should and should not be recycled.
“We just need people to actually recycle,” Vanderheiden said.
Vanderheiden described how students can be environmentally friendly in addition to keeping their waste out of landfills. “Everyone should remember the 3 Rs we all learned in elementary school. Reduce, reuse, recycle is the proper order in which we should consume our things, because we should first cut down on our intake, and then use reusable things when we can,” Vanderheiden said. “Recycling is the final step, the last thing we should strive to do.”